Possible Government moves to permanently relax Sunday trading laws for large stores would drive more of the region’s small shops out of business, it is claimed.

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A lobby of small shopkeepers has launched an angry protest following reports that big supermarkets have been in talks with the government about making permanent the longer opening hours that have been allowed during the Olympics and Paralympics period.

One small Norfolk retailer, who owns two grocery shops, said one of them had witnessed a disastrous 20pc drop in Sunday sales in the first three weeks large supermarkets had been allowed to extend their opening.

His concerns have been supported by the Rural Shops Alliance, which warns convenience stores nationally could lose as much as £480m a year if present legislation - which restricts stores over 3,000sq ft to 10am to 4pm Sunday opening - is lifted beyond the Olympics period.

The government’s temporary opening hours amnesty was intended to create a feel-good factor for visitors during the games, but communities secretary Eric Pickles is reportedly open to a permanent change,

Nigel Dowdney, who owns the Stalham Shopper and Earlham Shopper in West Earlham, Norwich, said both shops had been affected but his Stalham High Street outlet had been worst hit.

He said: “My Stalham shop is only 150m away from Tesco which has been opening until 10pm on Sundays.

“In the first three Sundays my shop lost 20pc of its sales and 30pc of its footfall - and that is in a period when we expect to see an increase in footfall and sales due to people coming here on holiday.

“We would also normally expect to see an increase in sales during a big sporting event with people buying their beer and crisps.”

He said Tesco had already had a major impact on Stalham and it was important to limit any further effect on the town.

“I employ 42 people across my two shops and, without any doubt, I would have to cut jobs if that loss in trade became permanent,” he said.

“I know there are businesses that rely on Sunday trading more than me and it would be a disaster for them.”

Ken Parsons, chief executive of the Rural Shops Alliance pressure group, said the impact on trade so far had been patchy but warned that was in part due to the fact that only a proportion of the region’s supermarkets were currently taking advantage of the longer hours and customers had not yet become fully accustomed to them.

He said: “A lot of rural shops are just about keeping going but without any buffer to protect them. Even a slight decline in sales will force some of them out of business.”

He warned that when villages lost their shop only about 7pc were successful in starting up a replacement community-run store.

Appealing to shoppers to vote with their feet, he said: “Everyone is in favour of local shops in principle, but they don’t realise they need to spend a bit more money in them to keep them going.”

A spokesman for the Keep Sunday Special campaign, a broad coalition of people concerned to protect the special character of Sunday, said they were very concerned about the rumours of possible further changes to the Sunday trading law.

She said: “The government promised that this would not be a trial period for a future permanent change. So we now urge the government to refute the rumours or risk never being trusted again on this issue. As we have clearly seen in the past few years, while governments can do very little to build up the idea of a ‘big society’ they can all too easily destroy precious social capital, including small shopkeepers and community stores.”

The opportunity to open longer has been taken at Chapelfield Shopping Centre in Norwich where general manager Davina Tanner said: “Ultimately we’re living in a world that’s fast moving and for people to have more choice when they can shop on Sunday is a very positive thing.”

An Asda spokesman said: “Our customers like the convenience of us being open longer as it means they can shop when it suits them, not when it suits us.”

MP Brandon Lewis, whose Great Yarmouth constituency includes large urban supermarkets and small village shops, said: “I spoke to some independent retailers before the Olympics who were relaxed about the temporary extension of Sunday opening hours for supermarkets but they would be concerned if it was made permanent.

“I have some sympathy for them because Sunday trading is their USP and I would be cautious about any permanent extension.”

The EDP approached Tesco for a comment but received no response before going to press.

21 comments

  • I agree with Rorping. Now that internet shopping has become so important there is no case for any large store to open on a Sunday. Give the smaller shops a chance, and bring back half-day closing so that shopworkers can have a break and do their own shopping in another town. Longer hours don't increase sales overall - they just raise the oveheads.

    Report this comment

    JCW

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • And you all thought that slavery had been abolished in the UK !.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Is everyone seriously comparing working longer on a sunday to slavery? Being bullied in to working later? Being 'Forced' by your employer. Sorry but you dont HAVE to work on a sunday. You choose the job you do. If you dont like the hours you agree to in your contract, quit and give the job to someone who does want it. People who work in cafe's, restaurants, cinemas, leisure complexes etc dont complain that them working on a sunday is slave labour. Like I said, if you don't like it, quit.

    Report this comment

    lpeek

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Working with livestock is not an excuse-we managed for donkey's years with shops shut on Sunday and there was always a half day closing too in most towns. All other essential workers who have to work Sundays will get a weekday off somewhere or another. In Denmark until quite recently ( and maybe still) some shops and supermarkets shut Saturday afternoons as well as Sundays. When the government gives a lot of lip about family life and school standards and then passes laws that mean some families might never get a weekend together with their children and that kids could well spend every weekend in childcare it all sounds a bit hollow and empty. The only way this could possibly be acceptable is that if it was written in stone that no one would be asked to work both Saturday and Sunday more than a certain number of weeks a year. And we know that would not work because of the way shops treat their staff on Bank Holidays-Christmas especially ruined for many because of having to work Boxing Day. And what for? So the same money can be pushed around the same places.

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • is it really nessecary to have shops open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. lets all have sunday off to enjoy with our families. if you really are that desperate that you have to shop on a sunday then do it online.

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    timmy_two_sheds

    Friday, August 24, 2012

  • There is no need whatsoever for large shops to open on Sunday. We have only a certain amount of money to spend, except of course the fat cats who own the supermarkets! Let's have one day a week different to the others. What about the shop employees who are forced to work on a Sunday. The employers tell us no one is forced to work on that day but the fact is that they are obliged to work if they wish to keep their jobs. Be realistic!

    Report this comment

    beverley

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Btw, I am very impressed with the airbrushing of the Stalham Shopper photo. Very honest reporting. Not. Fraudulent journalism, but why?

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • But obviously the Government must act. Despite all their work so far on behalf of the big nationals some independent grocers, butchers and bakers remain obstinately in business.

    Report this comment

    Chris Booty

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • To be able to comment is a good thing but there is a line which you should not cross, I think that line has just been crossed.

    Report this comment

    Rorping

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • the french have the right idea-only cafes open Sunday mornings.Think of the poor workers being bullied into working longer and more unsociable hours.

    Report this comment

    bookworm

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Also much of the "fresh" food isn`t!

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    Mad Brewer

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Sorry, I thought they already were, mini markets that open at the crack of dawn and don't close until 10pm 7 days a week. Major supermarkets open from 8am until 8pm or 9pm daily except Sunday when they open about 10am and close at 4pm or 6pm. Broadsman I agree with your comment on people leading disorganised and empty lives that all they can cope with is shopping during holidays, but I guess doing it at the weekend makes it a family affair, although when you see families walking around with bored children whinging it makes you wonder why they bother. I don't think it will ever go back to 9-6 and half day closing (although a lot of places still do this). I can understand independant traders complaining about their livelihood, but have you noticed how many mini food shops we have in Yarmouth and more opening, they will eventually put each other out of business, why people think we need dozens of mini food shops is beyond me and the council shouldn't let them open. Thankfully the council have refused a 24 hour opening off licence.

    Report this comment

    Spooky

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Oh! Specs on. It`s the Earlham Shopper with a header about the Stalham Shopper. It just gets better........

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • For many many people Sunday is NOT a different day & will remain that way, no matter what happens to the shops. Why should shop staff be treated differently to those who work in restaurants, pubs, news paper shops, on the radio, in TV, in hospitals, prisons, petrol stations, with live stock, or those in may many other jobs that involve Sunday & Bank Holiday working?? And why should we expect some to work Sundays & then not permit them to choose what they do on their Sundays off?

    Report this comment

    el84

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Brandon Lewis just doesn't get it. The issue isn't just whether Sunday trading should be extended or not, David Cameron and his chums assured the public they were only being extended for the Olympics and that it would go no further than that.

    Report this comment

    Jeffrey Osborne

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • Another U turn. My way of thinking is that NO large store should open on Sundays. For some folk, sunday shopping is a day trip for the family,sad.

    Report this comment

    Rorping

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • That paradigm of retail probity, Mr. Dowdyknee, has got a lot of neck. I wouldn`t dare enter his West Earlham premises without a suit of armour - and that`s just because of his staff. In Stalhamgrad, all but one of the staff are serially and seriously rude to customers. I dislike visiting StressCo intensely but sometimes it is the lesser of two evils.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • It's a tricky one. When Sunday shopping was first introduced my main concern was for the impact on family life. It meant that parents who find the lure of the shops too hard to resist potential spend less time with their children in what I would regard as more wholesome activities. In addition, a proportion of the families with a member who works on Sundays won't have a day when they are all available to spend together. It would be interesting to know if anyone in this situation has felt it has made juggling family life more difficult.

    Report this comment

    AE

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • IPeek "Sorry but you dont HAVE to work on a sunday" >> I defy you to stand in the middle of the market and spout that load of tripe. People will tell you that they are forced to work or they will be sacked. That is the Yarmouth way. Also, ask them how many of them have actually got a contract of employment ?. Ask how many councillors and job centre staff have hotels, and things along the seafront where they can get cheap slave labour under the pain of loosing their unemployment benefit ?. The Council (past and present) dont give a fig as it makes the unemployment figures look good and make them look good too.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • For too long Retail (which accounts for just 7% of UK trade) has decide our working days and life. Undignified rushes for Sales on Boxing Day, Bank Holidays and every Sunday has destroyed peace for the majority who don't want this. Also, the family life of shop workers is destroyed with having to work anti-social hours, with that being done at a standard rate of pay. No enhanced salaries these days for Sunday or Bank Holiday working. Surely people can't lead such disorganised and empty lives that all they can cope with is shopping during holidays. Lets have shops back to opening 9 'til 6, closed on Sundays, Bank Holidays and Boxing Day, then the rest of us can enjoy true liesure.

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    broadsman

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

  • The last government thought if you let the financial sector rip it would cure everything. Now this lot are saying let the retail sector rule the roost and hey presto everything is better. Different government, same stupiity

    Report this comment

    weaversway

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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